Saturday, September 3, 2011

Just a little dash of common sense will fix it...

A few facts...

Only a very small percentage of Public Housing dwellings are 1 bedroom units.
Consequently, there is a HUGE percentage of 2 bedroom dwellings being occupied by single people.

Fact 2: It is NOT EASY to find a swap. Even with the super efficient Our House Swap website it can still be hard to find something that suits your needs.

Fact 3: It is virtually IMPOSSIBLE to get a transfer through the official channels - the average wait being 2 years.

State Housing Authorities rely on a large percentage of people to get so frustrated with the process, that they will give up their housing security and move into private rental just to obtain appropriate housing for their family.

So when you do find a compatible swap, it is like WINNING THE LOTTERY!

When Mrs T and the Dean family found each other and liked each other's properties - they thought all their dreams had come true.

Mrs T lived in a 3 bedroom freestanding house with a big back yard. All her children had grown up and moved on and now she needed to downsize - but she still needed an occasional carer to stay overnight with her due to health problems.

The Dean family had two young children and another one on the way. They were all crammed into a two bedroom unit with nowhere for the children to play.

Perfect match I hear you cry!

But alas - that's when the dream turned into a nightmare.

It takes a special kind of callous indifference to screw up such a positive step forward for both families. Enter Housing Tasmania...

The game is called Pass The Buck - Make Excuses - Deny All Responsibility - Don't Make a Decision - Collect Pay - Get Promotion.

Firstly - it took over 4 weeks for someone to look at the forms.

Mrs T's was rejected citing that she was only entitled to a 1 bedroom.
At this point, a dash of common sense would tell any reasonable person that finding a swap from a 3 bd to a 1 bd and vice versa would be non-existant.

Mrs T then produced a medical certificate to say that it was sometimes necessary for her to have overnight care.
A dash of common sense would have seen the oversight righted.
These are, after all, real people - not just numbers or statistics.

No luck. Mrs T was denied a second time.

The POLICY states:

Where the property sought is equal to or one level higher than the household’s standard entitlement (according to the housing entitlement table) the property may be considered appropriate and the application should proceed. ... Decisions should reflect sound stock management principles.

Two weeks later she was granted an interview with a Housing Supervisor who callously told her that "there is no way in hell you will be approved for the unit". Housing Tasmania then attempted to force her to sign papers for a 1 bd Transfer - which could take anything up to 2 years to find an appropriate unit. When she refused to sign, the Supervisor told her to "just stay where you are then."

So in Housing's view, it is better to let Mrs T rattle around in a house way too large for her, with a yard she can't maintain and leave the Dean family squished into a tiny unit... rather than apply a dash of common sense and allow the swap.

Let's repeat the Policy:
Decisions should reflect sound stock management principles.

Up the food chain... to the people who are tasked to oversee and investigate (stupid) decisions made by public servants... the elected representatives of the PEOPLE.
Unfortunately, the elected representative of the Dean family, Mr Scott Bacon MP, did not investigate the case, but simply regurgitated the line fed to him by the public servants.
[I bet it was a form letter - they have about 20 different versions - I've got enough form letters to wallpaper a highrise]

The Housing Manager then reiterated that the swap was "not going to happen" and insisted that the Dean family fill in Transfer forms - which they duly did. How long was the list for a 3bd? About two years!
With another baby on the way this would leave a family of five in a 2 bedroom unit for another two years because NOBODY had an ounce of common sense.

TWO MONTHS after all this started, the stress inflicted upon all parties is taking its toll. The new Dean baby is due to make an appearance in a few short weeks but is found to be in distress and undersized. The midwife cites anxiety of the mother as the cause.

Mrs T has applied to have the decision reviewed by the Housing Review Committee.
A date is set - then cancelled.

The Minister, who is supposed to be responsible for the actions of Housing Tasmania, is informed of the debacle. [don't hold your breath that Ministers ever do anything but send out more form letters]
Surprise Surprise. Regardless of the fact that there are NO 1bd units available and that several other single people have been approved swaps to 2 bd units just the month before, the Minister regurgitates the original decision without a proper investigation.

Enter the Ombudsman. He has spent the last few weeks requesting information from Housing Tasmania with no luck. He refuses to accept the regurgitated public servant response and INSISTS that someone (anyone!) inject a dash of common sense into the situation.

He requests that the Director of Housing review the decision properly.
So now - because all the underlings are incapable of making a common sense decision, the Director of Housing has to step in and sort out their mess.

And so - as all good fairytales go - we have a happy ending.
The swap can now go ahead because of pressure from the Ombudsman who seems to be the ONLY one with any common sense.

I wish I could report that this situation was exceptional. Alas, this sort of chaos occurs every day in every office - and the Ombudsman is not always there to sort out the red tape.


Huge congratulations to Mrs T and the Dean Family - Perseverance really does pay off sometimes!
I wish you all wonderful, happy futures and best of luck with the new baby.


  1. I told a friend who I was trying to swap that she was a liar (and then apologised when I found out the bizarre truth). She had a 3 brm place on her own and could only swap with the same size place - according to her housing office.

    I personally am as angry at public housing as I am at too many public housing tenants who whinge to neighbours etc. but will not come to the party and be counted and contribute to the noise we collectively have to make to make changes happen. Apparently, in NSW there is not even a Minister for Housing in this government, so complacency SO is not going to work.

  2. What about the little mouse traps called bedsitters that public housing fobs off on any poor soul who does not refuse one on the initial application form and which are used for emergency housing? These are evil little excuses for a dwelling. I went into one of these in the beginning, escaping domestic violence whilst undergoing cancer surgeries. I lived in a notorious block which (11 years ago) to this day I still think of with horror. I did not know you have to understand this system and to work it, otherwise you are saying 'yes' to everything that gets dished out to you.

  3. we are waiting for a early transfer on medical grounds. a minimum wait of 8 years in victoria. Also the ombudsmen only goes back to the dept to make sure they have followed the correct protocols.

  4. i just read about a women in a three bed room trying to a one bed room, that is whats happening to me and my neighbours, all our kids have moved out and we are all wanting to swap with a two bedroom place. but we can only have a one bed room, but where i live is a very small town and we dont have one bed rooms.. only two or three.. so we have all desided to stay where we are.. what a waste of bed rooms..that could all go to a family. plus we would love to have a two bed, so we can have family stay as we are all over 5o years. cheers

  5. When my sister had passed from cancer and my dad was tragically killed just 6 months later, my mum naturally wanted to move away from the past 40 years of memories and a very large 4 bedroom home as the rest of us had grown up and moved away. Now a "bit of common sense" would tell you to make her transfer a top priority as she wanted to downsize and a 4 bedroom was in very exceptionally high demand! Hmmmm no, it took almost a year of going through paperwork, dramas, mistakes and meetings b4 she finally got an offer which was horrible, not finished, in a horrible dangerous area and inadequate. It took another few months of getting the right transfer in the right area and right house a little 2 bedroom. Mum had already suffered a lot and certainly did not need the added drama of going thru the dramas associated with trying to DOWNSIZE. It was awful and she nearly did just give up and stay put in that large 4 bedroom. When will common sense prevail when it comes to the good tenants trying to do the right thing by downsizing? It is really quite a joke and ten years on after reading these comments here I cannot believe things have not improved - its completely unnecessary!

  6. Can anybody please help me with advise.i live in a 2bedroom townhouse in Vic[DOH],my daughter has been living with me the last 6months[27yrs old].i need to be transfered to a 1bedroom property cause of disability concerning the daughter wants to continue living here while i move out BUT the DOH says she cannot live here that we need to be moved out together into a 2bedroom property..Is this true or am i been lied to?Does anybody know what i can do to have my daughter continue living here while i can be transfered?.thankyou

  7. Hi, October 24 listing. You sound like you need a doctor to write to the housing office, saying you need a placement in a one bedroom place because of all the things you said. They don't listen to us tenants, it is as if we have no credibility, only people in authority can speak for us. Make sure the doctor asks that you be placed in older aged peoples housing or you could go into a hell hole in general housing where anyone could be living there. If your daughter is not your official carer or you are not her carer, then she needs to have a lease of her own to stay where she is. I think you need an explanation as to why you cannot live seperately. In NSW they no longer just pass a lease onto an existing tenant, not even a relative. Good luck.

  8. You have the enquire how your daughter can become the leaseholder of the property and if not, why not. If the property is on a transfer list if you transfer out then she has to be in line and they will only give it to her if she has a definite reason that says she has to be there, but, if you ask to be transfered to an aged property because of age and health difficulties then I guess they would have to house her seperately. But you should ask your doctor to put your needs in writing to the housing people.

  9. hi

    im trying to do a mutual exchane between houseing and a community houseing tenant,does anyone know if it is possible,as houseing cant tell me anyhting,

  10. I was living alone from October 2007 until August 2011 in a two-bedroom, single-storey townhouse with a lawn and carport (in Qld).

    The latest Time magazine says that the proportion of dwellings in the UK with one occupant is 27%. In the USA it's 28%. In Sweden, 47%. They're only the countries I can remember from the magazine in the newsagent. All of the figures mentioned are growing. This is an enormous change and government housing agencies need to be aware of it.

  11. My son and I are in a 3 bedroom house and I have been on the transfer list for almost 12 months now to downsize to a 2 bedroom home because of medical reasons, I really want to downsize. I have been looking at the house swap website and decided to list my house on advice from a DOH emplyee. Last weekend I was contacted by a family in a 2 bedroom and we decided to swap. So in I go to DOH office in QLD only to be told I can never swap my house because you can only swap 3 bedrooms for 3 bedrooms 2 for 2 and 1 for 1 and as I am no longer 3 bedroom eligable only 2 bedroom eligable there can never be a swap. Needless to say I broke down as I was also told I might be waiting 6 years or more for the transfer. There just seems to be no common sense at all when it comes to the department. WHY can't we swap with eligable transfers and this in turn would shorten the transfer lists.


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